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Frugal Grocery Shopping Tips For the Frugal Buyer
Thoughts to Ponder
Depending on which survey you pay attention to, the average American spends between 13%-15% of their income on food. To say the least, that is a sizeable chunk of change.
Obviously, in an ideal frugal world, you would grow and raise all of the food that you need, but for an apartment dweller in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that probably is not going to happen. Therefore, we need some strategies when we are dealing with grocery shopping. Our goal, in Frugal Land, is to spend as little as possible for any expense, and food is no exception.
What follows, then, are a few things for you to think about; a few suggestions and tips that might get you out of your local Albertsons or Safeway having spent a little less money.
Crude video but it makes sense
Understanding Management Mentality
The goal of any business is to make money. Can we all agree on that? And since you, the consumer, are the one spending money, the goal of the store management is to take as much of your spending money away from you as possible. There, it has been said, the cold, hard truth of retail! I know it hurts to read that, but give it time to simmer in your mind and you will see the truth in it.
It is you against the store management in a fight to the finish, and may the best person win!
Now that the truth is known, you will begin to understand what follows. Grocery stores play tricks on you. They realize, as do you, that every consumer must buy certain staple products. In other words, there is a minimum that most people will buy. The store’s goal is to increase your minimum, and they do that by enticing you, and by playing on your impulses. The minute you walk into a modern grocery store you are being played like a fine harp, and the store management is the musician in control of the notes.
If you can get past your denial of that fact, that you are being played like a Stradivarius, then maybe, just maybe, this article will help you.
Remember, most shoppers have basic items that they will buy each week. Those items include dairy, bread, produce, and meat products. Have you ever noticed that in most stores those staple items are either in the back of the store or along the edges of the store? There is a very simple reason for that: management wants you to walk past as many store displays as possible before getting to your staple items. They are betting on your impulse buying gene. They are betting that over the course of time, they can wear your self-control down and get you to buy more than you went into the store to buy, and time and time again they win that bet.
Have you noticed that occasionally, seemingly at random, your grocery store will re-organize the store and switch aisles for products? All of a sudden the Jiff Peanut Butter is no longer in Aisle 6 but rather in Aisle 10. Have you ever been curious why a store does that?
Yep, same reason! They want you roaming around lost like a hiker in Nepal in desperate need of a Sherpa guide. Since most shoppers will not ask for directions or assistance, but rather will walk the entire length of the store looking for that moved item, the store has just won, again, another battle of wits.
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Beat the System with a List
How many of you make a grocery list before you go shopping? Now, how many of those people actually walk into the store and leave with only the items on that list? Marketing gurus are betting that you can’t do it, and again, more often than not, they win that bet time and time and time again.
They toss the bait out, then reel it in slowly. They are patient, and if they don’t get a bite after the first cast, they keep right on casting until someone buys that six pack of Coke or twelve-pack of toilet paper that you pass on the way to the gallon of milk you came in for.
The only way to beat impulse buying is to make a list and not vary from it at all. Put on blinders, like your grandpa’s favorite mare, and walk directly to the items you need. Do not look left and do not look right. You are a heat-guided missile and you will not be detoured for the Ho-Ho’s. Need vs want…remember it!
Looking High and Low for Better Prices
So, you stroll into your favorite store, determined to buy one item and one item only. You locate the product you need and suddenly you are confronted with forty-five different brands of that one item.
If it is pricing you are concerned with, and what frugal buyer is not concerned with pricing, then do not buy the items sitting at eye level. Those are, most likely, the most expensive. Look to the top shelf, or look to the bottom shelf; that’s where you will find your bargains.
Remember that everything in a grocery store is strategically placed with your money in mind; it is a battle of wills between you and the grocer, and may the best man, or woman, win!
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In case you are not familiar with the term, loss leaders are items the store will sell at cost or below cost to entice you into the store; their hope is that once they have you in the cozy confines of their store you will not escape without impulse buying.
Loss leaders are great deals but make sure you only buy the loss leader. If it is an item you use often, like toilet paper, and there is a limit on the number you can purchase, take your kids with you and have them buy the limit too.
My mother was like a general preparing for battle when she went grocery shopping. She would scour the ads, mark down the best deals, and then drive to the different stores picking up just the great deals. She never wavered in her determination, and her willpower was the equal of any store manager. We could all learn something from my mother’s example. However, driving an extra five miles to save fifty cents on a tube of toothpaste is stupid, so try to avoid that at all cost.
Buy in Bulk
I have been a lover and a hater of Costco for quite some time now. I love the prices and I hate fighting the crowds. I love the free food and I hate getting my shins hit by wayward carts.
There are tremendous savings in buying bulk; it just depends on how much storage space you have in that apartment you rent in Green Bay, Wisconsin. If you are single, and you live in a studio apartment, buying fifty rolls of toilet paper and twenty-five cans of chicken noodle soup might be irresponsible. However, if you are the mother of four children, buying bulk can and will save you big bucks. Just make sure you take a calculator along with you to figure out the cost per unit; no sense in buying bulk if you aren’t saving money in doing so.
Coupons and Rebates
If you are not rushing out to the mailbox on Wednesdays to get your coupon flier you are missing out on some great deals. Cut out the coupons you need and keep them organized. If you can find one of those coupon organizers at a garage sale, buy it immediately. Organization is the key for good couponing, and it can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
Rebates, on the other hand, offer a challenge this writer is not willing to take, but if you are made of stronger stuff than I am, then for God’s sake go after the rebates on items that you use. Most people shy away from rebates because it requires filling out a form and mailing the form with your receipt…and then waiting for the rebate to arrive. If you are organized and patient you can save big by doing so.
Why is it that most people only eat turkey on Thanksgiving? It is a great meal that provides tons of leftovers, and you can buy turkeys very cheap in January. Take advantage of the overstocked items during the different seasons.
You can usually find great deals on frozen vegetables in March and April, just before the fresh veggies hit the stands. Pay attention and save!
Get to Know Your Grocer
Not all grocers are money-grabbing monsters intent on leading you to bankruptcy. Next time you are in the store, chat it up with the produce man or the meat cutter. You might just find a secret comrade in arms and they might just give you a heads-up about future great deals. I have known several bread merchandisers over the years and they have steered me to great upcoming deals on bread. Once armed with that information, all I had to do was be patient and wait for the deal to begin. Insider information works in places other than the stock market.
That’s It for Now….happy Shopping!
You are now armed with enough information to save you hundreds of dollars in 2013 and beyond. The next step is yours and yours alone. Be determined! Be skillful! Be vigilant and be patient!
The next time you go to Safeway and come out with only the items on your grocery list, look at the store manager and smile. He or she will most likely smile back and give you a little salute. They recognize a skilled opponent, and they will respect your shopping skills. Just remember, though, that they may have lost the battle but they are more than prepared to win the war.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)